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Best Fundraising Maxims

Over my career, I’ve relied on several key fundraising maxims, and rules of thumb. These are all rooted in best practices for our industry. Here are my favorites:

People Give to People

Relationships are the core of good development work. Build authentic relationships and follow the golden rule. Treat your donors as you would like to be treated.

Plan the Work and Work the Plan

Having a written development plan is critical to creating sustainable funding for your organization. Review the plan often and makes notes along the way. Make sure you include fundraising, accounting, and program staff

Events Have a Life Cycle

Over-reliance on too many special events creates unbalanced fundraising and can lead to gaps in funding. Tracking your annual goals and results will let you know when it’s time to sunset an event, even a popular one. If the event has dwindling income and/or the effort involved isn’t justified, then make a plan to phase out that event.

No Is a Perfectly Fine Response

Carefully cultivating your donors is important to having a successful solicitation. But receiving “No” as an answer is also fine. You can explore if it’s the timing or the amount or other factors. No might mean “not right now.” Not every donor is YOUR donor. Be comfortable with “blessing and releasing” those donors.

If It’s Not Written Down, Then It Doesn’t Exist

I’ve preached this one for many years. Having a donor database is one of the most important tools for a fundraiser. Regularly updating donor records with notes, visits, and next steps will help your organization long after you leave.

Fundraisers Don’t Own “Their” Donors

Donors choose to give to a nonprofit because they believe in the mission. Just like no person owns a nonprofit, no fundraiser owns the donors. Yes, you build relationships with donors, but the core of that relationship is the nonprofit’s mission.

Everything Begins and Ends with Gratitude

Gratitude and being donor-centric are key elements of good fundraising practices. We must always remember to treat funders and donors as partners rather than an ATM machine.

I hope these are helpful reminders. Fundraising is hard work and these best practice maxims will allow you and your organization to be successful.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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